Defensively, the New Orleans Saints have gained much yardage in terms of being the type of team they want to be, including this season.
Even while surrendering 515 yards and 27 points to Seattle in a six-point victory in Week 3, the Saints saw much of what they were looking for, traits that became apparent over the next nine games, during which New Orleans allowed 18.4 points and 289.3 yards per game.
Against San Francisco, the defense took a sack: 48 points and 516 yards allowed in a two-point loss in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The race now for the Saints (10-3 entering Monday night's game against Indianapolis in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) is to make sure something like that doesn't happen again.
"We gave up 48," cornerback Marshon Lattimore said. "You can't have that happen, ever. We've been trending up since two years ago, as far as defense. This was an offensive team and the defense stepped up, and we can't take a drop-off now because it's crunch time. We need to keep getting better, and just match the offense."
The Saints did that, and more, in previous games. New Orleans has had five games in which it allowed 18 points or less, and the defense was on the field to close out victories against Dallas (with an interception on Dallas' final possession of a 12-10 win) and Atlanta (with three sacks on Atlanta's final possession of a 26-18 decision).
So the Saints believe they know exactly what to do, and how to do it, on defense.
"We just go back to the fundamentals, throw the last game out of the window," rookie defensive tackle Shy Tuttle said. "It's a week-to-week league, so just come in focused and ready to play.
"It all comes down to everybody doing their job, being technically sound and fundamentally sound. We've got a bunch of vets on the team, so they've been in the league for a while. They know how to approach a situation like this."
So, too, does an opponent. Especially one with a running game as formidable as Indianapolis (6-7).
The Colts run for 133 yards per game. After seeing the Saints allow 162 to San Francisco, and 6.8 yards per carry, the Colts took note. New Orleans allows 94.2 rushing yards per game.
"You do pick up certain things," Indianapolis Coach Frank Reich said. "You're looking at the whole body of work, but you do look at things, so certainly you try to pick up certain things you can build on."
Reich said the running game is significant.
"That is kind of paramount in this game," he said. "How that will play out will be a big factor in the game. The Saints have been great against the run, very stout, athletic, the guys up front, the linebackers have been aggressive and downhill, safeties and nickel players who get involved in the box.
"(Saints defensive coordinator) Dennis Allen does a great job of scheming that up to cheat the coverage to get the nickel and the safety into the front to stop the run, so they do a good job of that."
New Orleans is looking to do a better job of that, and everything else, Monday night.
"We've just got to keep playing, keep doing what we're doing," Lattimore said. "Trying to get better every week, each day. It's not really too hard, it's just the little things and once we fix that, we'll be all right."